The video from the construction site shows almost all aspects of the process of building a Mini Golf Lane. Let’s recap what we’ve seen and add a little context to the scenes in the video.
On the morning of September 14, 2016—day three of the summer school—Ina and Bernd want to move things forward with the construction of the mini golf courses. In the past two days all participants appropriated the container and its surroundings: installing the kitchen container, furnishing the office container, scheduling meal preparation, making lists, getting to know each other, mobilizing contingencies. Ina, an artist and professor for sculpture at the University of the Fine Arts in Berlin, asks half of the mini golf team to join her at the table to sketch out the possible positions of the lanes and work on a narrative for the course. In the meantime, Bernd, organizer of the summer school and Urban Design Professor, collects the other half of the team plus extra guys from different work activities to stake out the outline of the prototype lane one on its future green. The team members arrive, tools in hand, from another work station. At this point, the participants perceive each other as belonging to one of the three categories: international architecture students, industrial school students, and refugees. The presence of modified ISO containers on a summer school location, safety boots during a dinner lecture, a concrete mixer next to a children’s playground, cracked yet functional iPad Pros with PDFs of Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building on provisional tables, a baby carriage parked on the lowest level in a wooden “support structure” reveal a situation in which the “discipline” leaves the ivory tower by engaging performatively with the given context without closing out contingency.
Questions about position, form, and construction techniques of the mini golf lanes for the First International Mini Golf Grand Prix in Poppenbüttel zigzag across the table—a self-built provisional of multiplex panels measuring 12 x 1250 x 2500 millimeters, roof battens measuring 24 x 40 x 2000 millimeters, and Spax screws measuring 4.5 x 40 millimeters produced on day one of the summer school. A4 sheets of printing paper and sketch paper follow questions to illustrate potentialities—those who get a hand on Flo’s bricklayer pencil draw on the table. Farid puts his Samsung phone on the table displaying Google’s image search with the words “mini golf” typed into the search bar, Ina reports on previous art projects.
Days later, participants pick up the construction of the first prototype lane after testing the concrete mix together with a foreman from the general contractor. He is only available at the beginning of week two, so the construction process is on hold until then. In the meantime, the project team has decided on the outlines of all lanes and has asked the digger from the construction site to excavate the pits for the foundation. The ordered gravel has been delivered in two big packs weighing about 1,200 kilogram. With the first ten pushcarts making the 300 meters from the place where the material has been dropped to the final site of the mini golf course only filling about 15 percent of the excavated pits, participants decide to look for another mode of transportation. Ivan, one of the participants working on Take 1, has a Mercedes Vito with a hitch and a low trailer. Participants empty the big pack until only about half of the gravel remains in it and slide it onto the hitch by pushing a wooden beam measuring 100 x 100 x 2000 millimeters through the loops on top of the big pack over a highly resistant screen plate initially ordered to construct forms for the mini golf lanes. With an eased grin participants repeat the process and all pits are filled by the end of the day.
Breakfasts, from 9 am to 10am, are used for scheduling things do to for the day and figuring out how to do them. Participants quickly agree to transport the wet concrete in a similar fashion as the gravel. Only Ivan is not on-site today because he is working as a freelance architect on another project in Hamburg. Just as the first pushcarts are filled with wet concrete, Lukas, an industrial school student, parks his VW Polo in front of the running concrete mixer, steps out of the car, opens the trunk and asks Flo to sit in it. Lukas passes a loaded pushcart into Flo’s hands, asks if he will be able to hold onto it, gets back into the car and drives about fifteen kilometers/hour to the mini golf course site. Again, the re-negotiation of production processes is key on a design-build construction site. Julia sketches out what she perceives to be an assembly line in her journal and gives a copy to Marius, who in addition to receiving credits is paid as student assistant and is responsible for archiving the process.
Participants quickly pour the wet concrete into the mini golf lanes, as the metal plates measuring 3 x 20 millimeters suddenly appear to slightly drift topside, and builders fear the lane could break out of their frames. Shafiq asks Nicolai for his ripsaw and his assistance. He holds a piece of a wooden board over the framing metal plates and marks two cuts in the position where the plates are supposed to give form to the concrete. Nicolai, who still doesn’t know what Shafiq intends to do, saws the cuts and hands the board over to Shafiq, who positions the board and the two metal plates so that the plates fit into the cutouts. The board is a brace. Shafiq worked as an untrained concrete worker in Syria for years. The other participants quickly produce more braces based on Shafiq’s process and place them on all of the lanes as Lukas and Flo are quick with more pushcarts of concrete. With all lanes filled, two days remain until the summer school’s final presentation day.
Easterling, K., 2014. Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London: Verso.
Eribon, D., 2016. Rückkehr nach Reims. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.
Why Mini Golf?
Keller Easterling (2014) has employed golf courses as a powerful spatial product. It enables superpositions of various programs such as hotel, sports, culture, work, accommodation. Golf clubs are third spaces the provide a complexly managed minimal structure for people with access to the club. In Didier Eribon's (2016) book Returnig to Reims the french philosopher employs parts of his own upbringing in order to document how aspects of belonging and affiliation produce an interplay with effects on the value of education, training or capacities earned otherwise. Both writings present complex accounts of the assemblages of human and non-human actors and the process of people getting together and deciding what has currency.